Earthquakes that cause major damage do not occur often in Switzerland. The last one occurred in 1946 in Valais. But if there is a strong earthquake, the consequences are serious due to the high building density. According to experts, earthquakes are the natural hazard with the greatest destructive potential.
A moderately strong earthquake is always possible in Switzerland. A damaging earthquake with a magnitude of about 6 or more can be expected about every 50 to 150 years. Another quake like the one in Basel in 1356, which, with a magnitude of 6.6, was the strongest historically known in Switzerland to date, would cause damage amounting to more than 100 billion Swiss francs, according to experts.
Nevertheless, in contrast to other natural hazards, the Swiss population is inadequately insured against earthquakes. As a rule, buildings insurance only pays for a small percentage of any damage. The Swiss pool of cantonal building insurers for earthquake coverage, to which the majority of cantons belong, holds only two billion Swiss francs in reserve for the event of an incident. However, the value of all insured buildings in these cantons amounts to around 2,000 billion Swiss francs.
Zurich therefore offers private earthquake insurance to individuals and companies. This also applies to the canton of Zurich, where homeowners are automatically insured against earthquakes, although here, too, compensation for all building damage incurred is limited to 1 billion Swiss francs. Zurich covers that part which exceeds this maximum sum. In cantons where there is no mandatory protection, Zurich pays for earthquake damage.
If homeowners take out mandatory earthquake insurance with Zurich, Zurich will cover the remaining costs with the exception of a deductible of 10 per cent of the damage amount (minimum 20,000 Swiss francs). Financial compensation is also paid in the event of partial damage.